An explanation for an exception to Grimm's Law, which states that as a whole, voiced stops (litterae Mediae, b,d & g) regularly shift to voiceless stops (litterae tenues, p,t & k), which regularly shift to aspirates/spirants (litterae aspiratae, φ, θ, and χ). The Danish scholar Karl Verner examined a special case, in which voiceless stops shift instead to voiced stops instead of spirants, such as the correspondence of a Latin pater to Gothic fadar where we might expect faþar.

Verner, building on the work of Carl Lottner (who had in 1862 already compiled a list of these exceptions), and examining what he called strong verbs, determined that the cause of the anomaly was 'the variable IE accent'. He concluded that f, þ, and χ, when in medial position, derived from an earlier p, t, & k, and not immediately preceded by an accent, become the voiced spirants bh, dh, and gh. So, the reconstructed *upéri gave rise to the Old High German ubar, *sep(t)m to the Gothic sibun.

One of the failings of Grimm's law was that he stated a general rule without examining the exceptions; Verner, along with Grassmann, went a long way in proving the validity of Grimm's work by regulating and clarifying these exceptions, providing regular laws by which exceptions occurred. The results of Verner's study were first published in the article, Eine Ausnahme der ersten Lautverschreibung, in 1876.

Ver"ner's law (?). (Philol.)

A statement, propounded by the Danish philologist Karl Verner in 1875, which explains certain apparent exceptions to Grimm's law by the original position of the accent. Primitive Indo-European k, t, p, became first in Teutonic h, th, f, and appear without further change in old Teutonic, if the accent rested on the preceding syllable; but these sounds became voiced and produced g, d, b, if the accent was originally on a different syllable. Similarly s either remained unchanged, or it became z and later r. Example: Skt. saptA (accent on ultima), Gr. 'e`pta, Gothic sibun (seven). Examples in English are dead by the side of death, to rise and to rear.

 

© Webster 1913

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